In this era of time-shifted television viewing and fast-forwarding of commercials, how do you get the audience to stop and hear your marketing message? Be a part of the show.
Elle Macpherson, left, Ross Bennett and Sarah Parrott in the premiere of “Fashion Star.” (Tyler Golden / NBC / July 13, 2011)
Saks Inc., Macy’s Inc. and Swedish retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB are doing just that with the new show “Fashion Star,” which debuts today on NBC in the States. On the program, aspiring apparel designers pitch their fashions to buyers from the three retailers. The buyers bid on the designs, which are made available online and in the retailers’ stores the day after each episode. Saks and the other partner retailers pay to manufacture and promote items they bid on and sponsor a collection created by the show’s winner, but they don’t contribute to production or advertising costs.
The show’s format is one response by producers and marketers to digital recording and streaming technology, which has eroded the perceived value of traditional TV advertising by making it easier for viewers to skip the ads.
“Fashion Star”— which also features fashion model and co-producer Elle Macpherson, and celebrity designers Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie, and John Varvatos—may be the first example of fashion retailers being directly involved with a reality show’s story, but the broader concept isn’t new. Macy’s previously sold clothing featured on the show “Project Runway”.
Saks Chief Executive Steve Sadove said participating in “Fashion Star” offered the retailer an inexpensive way to market its clothing and image beyond its typical upper-end customer base.
“Clearly we appeal to more affluent customers based on our price point, but we want Saks to be accessible, not distant and aloof,” he said. Each winning design will only be sold through one of the retailers, depending on their price and customer base.
Mr. Sadove’s enthusiasm for “Fashion Star” wasn’t immediately shared by all of the top-ranking executives at Saks. Some worried Saks might cheapen its brand image by aligning itself with lower-cost brands like H&M and a mass-market realty TV show.
“My answer was, ‘You have to think differently,'” Mr. Sadove said.
Advertisers still pay handsomely for ads aired on shows with high playback mode viewing, like ABC’s “Modern Family.” But there are concerns those ads don’t get the same attention from viewers accustomed to their fast-forward buttons.
“You can argue these ads are being watched. But does it help sell the product? That’s another issue,” said Brad Adgate, a research director at consulting firm Horizon Media.
Mr. Silverman doesn’t know if the “Fashion Star” format will work, but he’s anxious to find out. “It’s so risky, I so want it to work, but I know so many things don’t,” he said.
William Launder, Wall Street Journal, 12 March 2012